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Biological Chemistry

Chemistry and Biology go Head-to-Head

February 1, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 5

Jan. 18, page 32: The Science & Technology story about fabricating catalyst particles with fine control over their structure mistakenly abbreviated manganese oxide as MgO. The spikes on the outside of the catalyst particles in question are, in fact, made of manganese oxide, not magnesium oxide.

The editorial “2015 Yields Two Nobels for Chemistry” applauded that “chemistry won big this year” in light of the recent trend that a greater number of Chemistry Nobel Prizes go to biology than chemistry (C&EN, Oct. 12, 2015, page 3). While the prospect of “reduced” chances to win the ultimate science prize may be a little disappointing to chemists who work in traditional chemistry disciplines, relatively more Nobel Prizes being awarded to biology-related fields should be viewed as beneficial from a long-term perspective.

Although chemistry is still the central science, our very existence as individual humans is based on our biological system (that is, our body), and what we know about this biological system and how we should treat it is probably among the top priorities in most people’s minds.

Key breakthroughs in understanding the mystery of our biological system at the levels of chemical bonding, as well as revelations concerning molecular structures, have had and will have profound implications on our health. Continuously increasing our biology knowledge will allow advancement in biotechnology and medical technology, which in turn may either directly impact people’s lives or be perceived as holistically beneficial to society.

Given the increasingly complex and unprecedented challenges that we face in the 21st century with regards to population dynamics, resource availability, and a seemingly deteriorating global environment, science and technology in general, and biology-related technologies in particular, are becoming more important in providing possible solutions.

Progress in extending life expectancy and improving quality of life will produce not only tangible rewards, but will also produce more important intangibles that are crucial to strengthening the scientific enterprise. Worldwide enthusiasm for and admiration of science, along with the desire and willingness to support scientific endeavors, which are, in part, inspired by Nobel Laureates’ accomplishments in exploring the unknowns of the world, will certainly make a stronger foundation that enables the sustainment of our civilization into the future. Here I wish to thank the Nobel Committees for their wisdom and vision.

Charles Rong
Adelphi, Md.



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